Kelly Crane heads off into the desert to find out about SENSE, an organisation offering animal-assisted therapy services here.
The thought of hanging out knee-deep in manure isn’t most people’s ideal choice for rehabilitation of any kind. That is until you’ve visited Al Tamimi Stables.
Far away from the fast-paced city life of Dubai, a lush, 30-acre oasis of calm and healing awaits. Recently launched, SENSE hopes to provide a positive outlook and offer healing through interaction with the environment and animals.
But perhaps more interestingly, a number of unique nature and animal-oriented therapies on offer at the centre will aid medical recovery without the use of medication and its negative side effects.
And this is squarely the ethos of its mission, according to SENSE general manager Aditi Sen, an expert in Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT).
‘SENSE is a one-of-a-kind social enterprise using animals for human wellness,’ says Sen. ‘We provide enriching interaction with animals and nature in a therapeutic environment with health professionals.’
The initiative is based on the theory animals provide unconditional acceptance, where humans may not.
‘Having grown up in the company of my pets, I realised they always showered me with unconditional love and I was always happy around them,’ says Sen.
‘On hectic days, my tensions vanished when they surrounded me. Their presence was a great stress buster and provided a social and emotional anchor in my life.’
Conducted by qualified and trained experts, AAT sessions at SENSE currently include time with rabbits, fish, cats and dogs but it plans to involve horses in the near future.
‘The animals have to be specially trained and must have a right temperament,’ she says. ‘He or she is trained to work with strangers, accept touch from new people, groups of children or adults, and exercise control without aggression.’
AAT is a much-debated topic used in hospitals, prisons, rehabilitation centres, mental health clinics, private practices and nursing-assisted living facilities all over the world.
It would be easy to join the cynics here. But do a simple Google search and the success stories are endless.
One stroke sufferer who was unable to regain mobility in her lower body gave it a go and was amazed with the results. Asked to stand as part of an exercise and she had no drive or determination, and thus didn’t improve. But asked to stand to brush and stroke a dog, an animal she subsequently took home, and her reason for standing came with a different motivation. Brushing and stroking led to short strolls and eventually longer walks.
Cynics aside, AAT also has proven results among children with special needs, autism, or kids with speech or learning disorders.
‘Don’t knock it until you have tried it,’ says Sen. ‘There are many success stories. This therapy offers an alternative to the more bog standard ways of treating people. The bond between healing and animals goes back in time because animals provide a strong support system to humans.
‘Unconditional positive regard and companionship all provide a feeling of belonging and acceptance in people. Healing comes in many forms and this may just be yours.’ Prices on enquiry. Visit www.tamimistables.com (06 743 1122)
Riding for the Disabled Association of Dubai First started in 1998, the organisation now has more than 60 children with autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, spina bifida and various learning disabilities riding horses weekly. Visit Lessons@rdad.ae
Confidence Clinics at HoofbeatZ Allows adults and children to ‘speak horse’ to recover from the loss of a loved one or simply unlock an emotional plug. Speak horse clinics from Dhs170. HoofbeatZ, Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club, near Arabian Ranches (050 181 0401).
Dolphins A popular choice for AAT, to tackle psychological problems and disabilities. Why not swim with one at Dolphin Bay at Atlantis, The Palm. From Dh800. Dolphin Bay, email@example.com (04 426 1030).